MSU has launched the First-Generation College Student Initiative website in partnership with the Neighborhood Student Success Collaborative.

As part of MSU’s land grant mission of empowering people through educational opportunity, providing opportunities and tools to assist students in their success is at the core of MSU’s mission and strategic vision. In demonstrating commitment to these aims, last year MSU was accepted into the Center for First-generation Student Success’s First-Gen Forward Cohort, a designation granted to institutions displaying an ongoing commitment to first-gen student success. 

With an institution the size of MSU, transitioning can be an overwhelming experience. But for first-generation students, this step into higher education feels more like a leap into a labyrinth of choices with poorly marked pathways in an unfamiliar language. To support these students, MSU has launched the First-Generation College Student Initiative website, firstgen.msu.edu, in partnership with the Neighborhood Student Success Collaborative (NSSC).

This website is serving as a centralized location to house MSU’s signature first-gen programs as well as important resources, information and opportunities for first-gen students across campus, and ultimately the families, faculty and staff who support them.

“The site is creating an identity for first-gen students. MSU has not had anything that spoke to first-gen students specifically. And because there are so many resources and supports that are siloed because our campus is so big, this was really an effort to help centralize,” said Christina Bridges, former assistant director of TRIO Support Services Program in NSSC, now a Strategic Retention Manager for APUE, as well as the brainchild behind the new first-gen website. “We're starting with the lens of supporting students, but my hope is that we can support families, alumni and other stakeholders through this website as well,” she added. 

Ongoing development and continued learning opportunities are central to the website’s purview and will connect MSU’s first-gen community with cohort-specific support and information. Namely, the website is home to MSU’s signature first-gen programs including the TRIO Student Support Services Program and the Spartan First-Generation Leadership and Innovation Program (Spartan FLI), a developing program from the generous Vanderploeg donation. It also hosts valuable information on funding, scholarships and high-impact practice opportunities to ensure first-gen students experience a rich, well-rounded college experience. 

The website also features the stories of other first-gen students at MSU that provide a glimpse into their experience transitioning to the institution, offering other first-gen students a window into how their peers succeed. “There are a lot of people on campus who are first-gen. It's a positive thing. These individuals bring a lot of strengths to campus, and we want to highlight those,” said Perry Fittrer, deputy director of NSSC and director of the Office of Supportive Services, and a key figure in MSU’s first-gen student offerings and engagement. “You'll see on the website people telling their stories and giving tips. They're really powerful ways for students to identify others on campus that have shared that experience. If students get nothing else, they'll go to the website and say, ‘Okay, I'm not alone here,’” he emphasized. 

According to Perry, first-gen students compose a large portion of MSU’s undergraduate population, roughly 20%. Nearly a quarter of students who begin at MSU are starting a very important journey, often with an unclear roadmap. And graduation rates of first-gen students, while steady, have not risen for the last several years

True to the land-grant mission, and MSU’s strategic graduation goal for 2030, an investment in first-generation students is an investment in the future of the state of Michigan. Students who feel as though they belong before reaching campus have the potential to persist and graduate at a higher rate

This coming fall semester will be an important chapter in how MSU delivers a world-class education to first-generation students. Rather than feeling like another face in a sea of faces, MSU’s large first-generation population has a new welcoming committee and a place to be accepted and understood before discovering all MSU has to offer throughout their college career. By focusing on the first-generation aspect of student identities, the labyrinth they are thrusted into will now be populated with clear pathways, inviting them to come learn what it means to part of the Spartan community together. 

To learn more about MSU’s First-Generation College Student Initiative, visit firstgen.msu.edu, and see why MSU earned the First-Generation Forward designation.